SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois legislature has forwarded legislation to the governor designed to crack down on employers who cheat workers out of wages.
Senate Bill 1720 would prohibit businesses who violate state law on the payment of wages from receiving taxpayer-funded state contracts for at least five years. SB1720 also increases the penalty for disobeying a court order to pay back wages the court finds to have been stolen from an employee.
So-called “wage theft” is estimated to cost American workers more than $50 billion per year, and news reports have claimed Illinois to be a difficult and complex state for workers seeking to recoup stolen wages.
“In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly,” said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, who voted for the bill The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent.”
Legislators worked on the measure with grassroots organization HourVoice (www.HourVoice.com), which provides hourly workers and their advocates with new technologies for creating better workplaces.
According to HourVoice, wage theft takes many forms, including: shorting workers on their hours, not paying the minimum wage, and not properly paying overtime.
“Wage theft is estimated to drain $800 million – $3 billion a year from the Illinois economy,” said state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, who sponsored the measure. “It can also push people below the poverty line and make it harder for working parents to support their children. But when low-income workers get the full pay they have earned, they improve the local and state economy with the dollars they spend.”
— From the Illinois Business Journal